Scientists are enlisting the public’s help to support separate research projects that are assessing the growing risk of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks.

A surveillance initiative assessing the current and future risk of mosquito-borne diseases in Scotland has launched a citizen science website to encourage members of the public to report when and where they spot these insects in the country. 

Mosquito Scotland, involving the University of Glasgow, UKCEH and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is collecting data on mosquitoes from across the country. It is investigating whether they are harbouring any diseases currently, as well as assessing which areas may be affected by infections such as West Nile Virus that may expand into the UK due to climate change.  

This citizen science data will support modelling by researchers, including UKCEH theoretical ecologist Dr Steven White, to predict future mosquito-borne disease risk.
Members of the public can report when and where they spot mosquitoes in Scotland via mosquito-scotland.com and are asked to supply a good quality photograph. They can send in dead mosquitoes for identification.

Meanwhile, UK-wide online surveys as part of the OPTICK project are seeking the views of farmers and vets on the risks from tick-borne infections such as Louping ill, tick-borne fever and babesiosis, as well as their priorities for disease management.

Tick-borne infections such as Lyme Disease also affect people. 

OPTICK is analysing how land, health and livestock management and policies, as well as climate, affect tick populations and the current and future risks of diseases being transmitted to livestock and people. 

The project, involving the UKCEH, the University of Liverpool, UKHSA, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Moredun Research Institute, will identify cost-effective interventions that align with farming priorities and practice. BBC Countryfile focused on the research, including an interview with UKCEH ecologist Dr Bethan Purse, in a programme broadcast on 28 April 2024. 

The OPTICK farmers’ survey is at ee.kobotoolbox.org/x/29h7ABVL and the vets’ survey at ee.kobotoolbox.org/x/a9GOocAG

OPTICK and Mosquito Scotland are both funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Defra, reflecting a ‘One Health’ approach to vector-borne diseases that integrate animal, human and environmental health and sectors.